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NIH Panel on Lactose Intolerance Offers Solutions that Include Dairy

Feb 26, 2010

A panel of experts assembled this week by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) concluded that people who currently avoid milk and other dairy products due to concerns about lactose intolerance often can find other ways to manage the condition without sacrificing the valuable nutrients provided by dairy. The NIH Consensus Development Conference on Lactose Intolerance and Health met February 22-24 in Bethesda, Md., to examine the latest research on lactose intolerance, consider strategies to manage the condition and review the health outcomes of diets that exclude dairy foods.

Lactose is the natural sugar in milk, and some people lack sufficient amounts of an enzyme that is needed to comfortably digest lactose.

After reviewing the scientific evidence, the Consensus Development Conference panel completed a draft consensus statement to correct some of the common misperceptions about lactose intolerance, including the belief that dairy foods need to be excluded from the diet. The statement will remain in draft form for a few weeks and then will be posted to the NIH Web site in final form. These consensus statements are highly regarded in the health and research community. The statement, including a list of the panel members, is available here.

IDFA Vice President Cary Frye Addresses Panel

Speaking before the panel, IDFA Vice President Cary Frye commended the members for their comprehensive review, which included more accurate descriptions of how milk and dairy products can be included in the diets of people who are lactose intolerant. She welcomed their positive positions on milk and their recognition that cheese is naturally low in lactose and can be consumed by people diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Frye provided a more detailed description of cheeses and recommended that the report include cheeses other than "aged cheese," because mozzarella has the highest domestic consumption rate and is not considered an aged cheese.

Frye supported the panel's recommendation for affected individuals to consume lactase-treated foods, which are commercially available, and explained that filtration technology is used to produce high-protein, reduced-sugar, lactose-free milks now on the market. She concluded her remarks by asking the panel to consider lactose-reduced or lactose-free dairy foods, along with yogurt, cheese and lactase-treated foods, as ways for lactose intolerant individuals to consume much-needed nutrients.

Industry Groups Coordinate Efforts

IDFA coordinated with several dairy industry organizations, including the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the National Dairy Council (NDC), to prepare for this important meeting. Following the conference, MilkPEP and NDC issued a joint news release to highlight the conclusions in the draft statement.

For more information, contact Frye at

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